Theatre Review: Solo Collective Theatre’s Satellite(s) is lost in space

Satellite(s).jpeg

There’s a lot of confusing elements about Solo Collective Theatre’s latest work, the two-act play Satellite(s) by Aaron Bushkowsky. Here we have an award-winning playwright and a collection of actors with notable credits, delivering a train wreck of a show.

The script is arguably the worst I’ve ever seen performed in professional theatre; there’s no focus to the storyline, the characters literally ramble, and on top of everything, there’s a lot of very weird elements. Additionally, the play decides it’s a musical at the end, when the actors abruptly start singing. This hot mess of a show genuinely made me feel uncomfortable and embarrassed for everyone involved.

The show’s story involves Cherry (Sharon Crandall), a woman from China who decides to purchase a five million-dollar home in Vancouver so that she can transplant her teenage son, Li (Mason Temple) to Canada. She intends for Li to live on his own in this house while she continues to work and reside in China. Obviously, the culture shock for Li and his lack of family or social support sends him spiralling into depression and erratic behaviour.

Even the promo photos for this show don't make sense. For example, the character of Li (played by Mason Temple), pictured front and centre in this photo, doesn't actually look anything like he does here. In the play, he doesn't have the weird hair, lip piercing or the T-shirt he's wearing in the photo. 

Meanwhile, weird neighbour Jan (Jillian Fargey) becomes concerned about the teenager living on his own next door. She’s already an outspoken Vancouverite lashing out against the hot real estate market and the practice of foreign ownership in Vancouver. While she’s off yelling at city counsellors and sneaking into empty homes to take photo evidence to support her cause, her husband Andy (Alex Zahara) is having an affair with real estate agent Sandy (Meaghan Chenosky).

The above storyline in itself would have provided a sane basis for a plot. But Dow has added many additional pieces that either make the show too complicated or that prevent the play from gelling together. The city counsellor, Omar (Anousha Alamian), one of the numerous characters whom Jan likes to yell at, happens to be married to Sandy; and he eventually has an affair with Cherry.

After everyone has come clean about their affairs, Andy decides to move in with Sandy while Omar is still living there. Andy and Omar apparently become drinking buddies, and their desired topic of conversation over beers is about how Andy is kicking Omar out of his home.

This promo photo suggests the show is a contemporary dance show. It's not. 

In the midst of all the crap going down, crazy neighbour Jan (who is a writer), decides to fly to China to yell at Cherry for forcing her son to live in isolation – because we all know that writers have so money to burn. It’s later revealed that Jan suffered a concussion in her past, which apparently is supposed to explain how crazy she is.

And as I pointed out earlier, the show decides to turn into a musical at the end, when all the actors bizarrely break out in song. Additionally, there’s supposedly also some sort of theme involving aliens and a parallel universe, for good measure.

If the above storyline sounds ludicrous to you, it’s because it is. Watching Satellite(s) is a painful two hours of witnessing annoying characters ramble and exhibit strange behaviour, as the play spirals into becoming a hotter and hotter mess.

As Cherry, Sharon Crandall somehow manages to deliver Dow’s ridiculously written dialogue with sincerity. And despite the awful script, Mason Temple as Li and Meaghan Chenosky as Sandy deliver strong performances; Temple is also able to produce audience empathy towards his character.

There's also no dog in the play. 

I couldn’t decide who was more annoying – Jillian Fargey as Jan or Anousha Alamian as Omar. Their characters are remarkably unlikeable to start with, but Fargey’s oddly hyper behaviour and Alamian’s lack of any kind of sincerity in delivering his character’s lines make their presence even more tragic. It’s hard to evaluate Alex Zahara’s performance as Andy, because his character literally rambles nonsensically throughout the entire second act.

If you have the unfortunate experience of having to sit through this travesty, you will likely need either a lot of Advil or alcohol afterwards, since the ridiculousness and incredibly confusing aspects of the show will leave your head hurt and exhausted. A few other unexplained elements of Satellite(s) include the following:

·       The title of the play, Satellite(s). What’s with the “s” in brackets? Why not just call the damn thing Satellites?

·       The promo photos have a futuristic theme and the character of Jan is wearing sunglasses and a dark trench coat, suggesting that she’s a time traveller. In the play, she’s actually a poorly-dressed, crazy hippie (who is apparently loaded with cash and able to fly to China just to yell at someone).

·       While yelling at Cherry in China, Jan starts to get a migraine and Cherry tells her that she would get her something, but her “resources are limited”. Yes, Cherry is apparently a woman who casually bought a five million-dollar house at a drop of a hat, but can’t afford a glass of water or an Advil.

The promo photos suggest that the character of Jan is a time traveller.

·       The promo photos also suggest that this is a contemporary dance show – it’s not. But it does thinks it’s a musical at the end.

I’m not even going to provide ticket or website info for Solo Collective Theatre’s Satellite(s) by Aaron Bushkowsky and directed by Bill Dow, because it would seem wrong for me to encourage anyone to see this. The play runs until November 26 at Performance Works on Granville Island, after which I’m hoping no one will ever have to suffer through it again.